Saturday, December 17, 2016


Belief in the essential decency of Republicans never dies in the mainstream media. Yesterday's New York Times included a delusional op-ed by former Times executive editor Bill Keller noting that criminal justice reform never happened in D.C. this year, despite a sense that at least some members of both parties were interested in it -- but now that Donald Trump is president, for some reason it might be more likely to pass, according to Keller:
I can think of four reasons the prospects of federal reform are actually better in 2017.

First, it is not an election year. Nothing makes members of Congress squirm like the specter of attack ads portraying them as coddlers of criminals. There is reason to think those Willie Horton-style gotchas have lost some of their potency, but the prospect tends to make members of Congress more risk-averse in even-numbered years....
One could argue that there was bipartisan talk about criminal justice reform this year precisely because it was an election year, and some Republicans, nervous about running for reelection at a time when Democrats were expected to have their "presidential electorate" turning out to vote, wanted to look as if they cared about an issue that was important to people other than angry whites.
Second, President Obama will be gone. Some of the resistance to this year’s sentencing bill was a reluctance to give the president a parting victory....
Well, yes, Bill, but, um, Donald Trump is replacing him.
Third, at least one of the hard-core Senate opponents of sentencing reform will no longer be there. That would be [Jeff] Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama. True, as attorney general he will be in a position to encourage a presidential veto. But he will not be joining the obstructionists who this year never let a bill come to a vote at all....
Yes, that's right: Sessions won't be in the Senate anymore, but Keller believes a compassionate-on-crime bill he opposed could be signed by the guy who picked him as attorney general.

And then there's my favorite:
And fourth, the Republican leadership will be looking very hard for bipartisan successes to demonstrate that Washington is no longer in a state of ideological paralysis.
"The Republican leadership will be looking very hard for bipartisan successes"? Stop, you're killing me.

Never mentioned in Keller's op-ed is the real reason for most Republicans' interest in criminal justice reform: It was meant as a delivery system for the only kind of justice reform members of the GOP (and their paymasters) care about: reform of the criminal code to make life easier for rich corporations.
Republicans insist there must be reforms to mens rea, Latin for “guilty mind,” the principle that a person must have some level of criminal intent to be found guilty of a crime....

Democrats, however, strongly object to including that proposal. Their opposition stems in part from the belief that it would create a difficult standard for prosecutors and could make it easier for some who commit white-collar or corporate crimes to avoid prosecution.
The Koch brothers, in particular, have made mens rea "reform" a priority. Then again, Keller seems to believe the Kochs are sincere about the overall reform effort: Earlier this year, he interviewed Koch vice president Mark Holden on the subject on behalf of the Marshall Project. The interview was published under the title "Is Charles Koch a Closet Liberal?" (Subtitle: "Not hardly. But he’s for rolling back the war on drugs, ending mass incarceration, and letting former convicts vote.") Gawker's Andy Kush wrote:
Keller challenges [Holden] on some specifics -- such as Koch’s championing of so-called mens rea reforms, which chiefly benefit corporate offenders -- but if you were to read Holden’s statements without any prior context, you might come away with the mistaken impression that the Kochs are primarily known as bleeding hearts.

... much of the Kochs’ reform energy has been focused on protecting those at the top of the two-tier system outlined by Holden, not the bottom. Holden freely admits that Charles Koch became interested in criminal justice after his company was accused of covering up its emissions of benzene, a carcinogen, at a refinery in Texas in the 1990s.
At this point, why would the Kochs bother to pursue a full-spectruim criminal justice reform bill? Why would the Republicans who now control the entire federal government bother? Now it would be easy just to pass a stand-alone mens rea bill tailored to the Kochs' specifications and ditch everything else to do with criminal justice reform.

Keller can still dream, I guess, but we don't have to believe him.


Frank Wilhoit said...

All shadowplay. Conservatives do not want to change the law; they want to be above it.

Joey Blau said...

"bipartisan success"?? OH OH I know! that is when you give me a blowjob and THEN I fuck you in the ass!! we can get along I know it!

Jimbo said...

Keller is actually an intelligent guy. It's amazing how such people can be so suckered by people like the Koch Brothers who have never tried to hide their real agenda.I guess people like Keller have just decided to be whores and nothing more. In any event, next year will be a complete shitshow as the Congress and the Executive try to destroy 100+ years of the US Govt. and fail colossally. Especially with the ridiculous clowns they want to run the civilian agencies,

Jimbo said...

Having said what I just said, if the MSM doesn't start doing their jobs, we are f*cked anyway.

Swellsman said...

Trump and the GOP are going to kill the economy with their tax cuts for the uberwealthy and their slashing of gov't services. Trump is going to renege on deporting millions of immigrants (although he will make a token show of doing so) and on building that stupid goddam wall. And Trump will not be bringing back the coal industry, or manufacturing jobs that have been lost to automation.

But what Trump CAN do - the thing that will play best with his base - is crack down on black and brown people by being "tough on crime." Even if he totally tanks the economy, blows up the deficit, throws millions out of work, takes away health insurance, and embroils us in wars around the globe (anytime someone fires a rocket at a building with his name on it, say) . . . there is a not insignificant portion of this base who will continue to support him so long as he is seen to be throwing people of color in jail. "Tough on Crime" is going to be the political justification for keeping his bigoted supporters happy.

Curtis Tribble said...

Ugh. Let's not forget Keller was the guy who thought it would be a good idea to bring back Ken Starr to investigate "scandals, real and imagined."

Steve M. said...

Comment from Victor that I inadvertently deleted (but managed to save):

"Republicans insist there must be reforms to mens rea, Latin for “guilty mind,” the principle that a person must have some level of criminal intent to be found guilty of a crime...."

"Criminal intent?"
Well then, let's arrest ALL of the Republicans in both houses of our national congress, and about 1/2, or more, of the Democrats!

And that's just a start!
Then, we should work down to where the REAL business of poltical grifting gets done:
State legislatures.

Yastreblyansky said...

This is great--I had no idea that was why he Kochs and allies signed on.

"Dupe of the day" is a keeper!

Steve M. said...

Thanks -- I don't really expect to find a dupe every day, but you never know...

Never Ben Better said...

Aw, c'mon, Steve -- just look among the ranks of the punditocracy struggling to normalize Trump and company and you'll be knee-deep in dupes for ages, let alone trawling through the halls of government for the willfully blind.